Glacier melting will have national impact: Uttarakhand BJP MLA

Water Audit Council chairperson Avinash Mishra, meanwhile, blamed over-tourism and advocated for sustainable development

Kishore Upadhyay (left) and Avinash Mishra at a press conference (photo: Vipin/National Herald)
Kishore Upadhyay (left) and Avinash Mishra at a press conference (photo: Vipin/National Herald)

Ashlin Mathew

Glaciers melting at a rapid pace, the rising temperatures in Uttarakhand, glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and flash floods are not just issues for the state, but concerns for the whole country — so Uttarakhand BJP MLA Kishore Upadhyay told the media today, 25 June.

Apparently seeking to clear the state administration of blame for these occurrences, Mishra said that when the temperatures in the Himalayas increase, it affects people in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai too and implied it was for the union government to address the situation and avert such disasters countrywide.

“If no condensation will happen in the Himalayas, then what will happen to the north-west and south-west monsoons?” Upadhyay asked in a press conference in the national capital region.

Notably, the BJP is in power in Uttarakhand and leads the NDA government at the centre in the person of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Upadhyay said that the Uttarakhand government has spoken to state environment minister Subodh Uniyal, who will raise the matter in the monsoon assembly session. “We are just bringing attention to this problem in Delhi as power resides here. This has a national and international impact,” said Upadhyay.

On the other hand, blaming the citizens for the crisis, Water Audit Council chairperson Avinash Mishra said people have to be blamed alongside Delhi for the issues in Uttarakhand. “The springs are drying up. We need inclusive development,” said Mishra, who suggested introducing a tourist permit for the hill state. He wants a restriction on the number of tourists visiting Uttarakhand, he said.

“Each state has a carrying capacity. We need to now conduct studies on that to see how we have (to) effectively preserve the environment in Uttarakhand,” said Mishra.

Asked about ongoing deforestation and dams being built indiscriminately in the state, Mishra said the union government had conducted studies and the environment ministry had given clearances to several of these hydro-electric projects.

Despite a series of adverse events in the hills over the last few years, the environment ministry in April 2024 started the process of granting environmental clearance to rebuild a hydropower project in the upper reaches of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand — at the same site from which it was almost completely washed away during the 2013 flash floods. This is despite the report having two dissenting votes.

The union environment ministry’s report had concluded that high-altitude hydropower projects aggravate ecological damage and can lead to environmental disasters, but the expert appraisal committee on 20 March recommended the Phata Byung project by Mandakini Jal Urja Pvt Ltd March for an environmental impact assessment study — with a public consultation but with no public hearing. The estimated project cost is Rs 466 crore.

Mishra meanwhile pointed to the significant expansion of glacial lakes in the Himalayas and highlighted that ISRO has reported that over 27 per cent of the identified Himalayan glacial lakes have expanded since 1984 and that of these, 130 lakes are within India.

“This leads to glacial lake outburst flood, or GLOF, a phenomenon that’s become common on account of climate change and global warming. This is a major risk that should be managed effectively,” said Mishra.

The officials also said they wish to begin a dialogue with all the Himalayan states — not just Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, which are Uttarakhand's immediate neighbours, but also Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.

However, Mishra also said they had not spoken to the current Himachal Pradesh government yet. “We had spoken to Prem Kumar Dhumal when he was the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. We will hold a meeting again,” said Mishra.

Dhumal was the chief minister from 2012 to 2017 and belongs to the BJP. The current chief minister is Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu of the Indian National Congress, who took oath in 2022. (In between, there were Virbhadra Singh of the Congress and Jai Ram Thakur of the BJP.)

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